Gnome Stew reader Roxysteve emailed me to suggest that I review the Noteboard, a fold-out pocket whiteboard with a blank side and a gridded side that’s got all sorts of gaming uses, and I took his suggestion (thanks, Roxysteve!). It seemed like a product Gnome Stew readers would be interested in hearing about, as well as something I’d use myself, and it was only $10 plus shipping — an easy sell right off the bat.
It looks like a simple product on the surface, but it’s obvious a lot of thought and iteration went into the design.
What do you get for $10?
You get this cute little bag, which isn’t much larger than a 3×5 index card (there’s a reason for that!):
Inside are two things.
Let’s look at the pen first.
It’s a dry-erase marker with an eraser on the cap. The eraser is very small, and after erasing just a few lines it started smearing more than it erased.
That’s easily remedied with another eraser, or by using the Noteboard’s bag, which itself functions as an eraser (and is advertised as washable).
The other occupant of the bag is this shiny little bundle:
From the side, the Noteboard looks like a stack of plastic-wrapped 3×5 index cards, which isn’t too far off the mark.
Here’s what it looks like unfolded the long way.
…and then unfolded all the way.
It unfolds to 35″ by 15″. You can fold it forwards or backwards along any fold line, though, so you can decide what size it is as needed (any number of 3×5 segments wide x long, up to the maximum).
That’s the gridded side, which I’ll come back to after the next photo.
Here’s the reverse.
The blank side is just that: featureless. I drew a gnome on mine, demonstrating that I can’t draw a gnome to save my life.
The blank side has lots of uses at the gaming table, from sketching things for your players to jotting down initiative order.
As you can see, there’s a gap between each card, and each card is joined to its neighbors by a folded bridge of card. This is one of the areas where the Noteboard shows just how much thought went into its design. The gaps are just wide enough to let it fold and unfold comfortably, but they don’t make it hard to draw on; neither do the bridges.
It also lays flat nicely, though it might need a quick back-fold along the long axes to do so. (Mine did.)
Back to the gridded side, which has even more gaming applications.
This grid is clever. It manages to include 1″ squares, 1″ hexes, 1 cm squares, and markers for 16ths of an inch and millimeters whle striking just the right balance between making the lines obvious and non-obvious. It’s perfect.
Here’s a dungeon that makes my gnome look good by comparison.
It’s easy and pleasant to draw on. The gridlines are visible enough to follow, but not nearly as visible as whatever you draw on the Noteboard.
It erases cleanly, even the “gaps” between the cards.
Finally, the bag is stretchy and has some room to spare in it.
I packed in two full poly sets and still had no problem closing it back up.
There was room left over for another couple dice, or a miniature or two, and at least one writing implement.
The outside of the bag also suggests some other nifty applications, like tacking the Noteboard to a wall or cutting it into smaller sections (something the gaps make easy to do). If you buy one, you’ll likely think of others.
Should you buy it?
If you travel to your games, are concerned about space, or run a lot of convention or game store sessions, double yes.
There’s nothing I would change about the Noteboard, and just about every GM will be able to find a use for a pocket whiteboard that comes packed inside its own eraser. At $10 (less if you buy 5+), it’s a steal.
If you’d like a Noteboard, it’s available online.
As always, if you’ve got questions about the Noteboard I didn’t answer in my review, fire away in the comments!
I own one of these, I got it for gaming, since it is easier to manage than a chessex mat. However, mine does not erase as cleanly as Martin’s. I often have to be very thorough and basically scrub away the marker to remove it.
Despite the erasing less easily than I hoped, this is a great product. It is very affordable, portable, and it has tons of uses.
Though I got it for gaming,I love it for story boarding and for working on grad school papers. While notebooks and computer programs are great for story boarding, I like to have everything out at once to see, not needing to scroll through tabs or turn multiple pages. For grad school papers this made citations very handy. I wrote out important points with the citation nearby and I didn’t need to keep flipping between documents. Plus you can draw arrows to help connect ideas (for research or story boarding).
Heh. I carry mine at work in case we need to storyboard a computer system – all our wall-mounted whiteboards have fossilized drawings on them that we Must Not Ever Erase. If you are a visual thinker like me a portable whiteboard is a dream come true since I can draw where and when I like and clarify my brilliant ideas to lumpen management clods, and no one, NO ONE gets to tell me I can’t erase the bugger when I damn well please.
I do the same thing – sharing notes and layouts on the table between the parties is pretty effective for small groups.
Also, having a mind map of my supers game setting available to amaze my colleagues in the pub with was pretty awesome.
As to ease of erasure, I find a paper towel is more effective than either the bag or the pen top. The Noteboard surface is a softer polymer than the usual whiteboard surface and so it holds onto the ink more tenaciously so a more abrasive eraser helps.
I bought it at the same time, for the same reason. It’s clear that they put in development effort. I’m less sure about the gap between the cards for a “battlegrid”, but it’ll be great for sketches and large scale maps.
I haven’t tried it as a battlemap, but the gap doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult to work around.
Is the gap really an issue for minis? The actual boundaries are drawn in (walls and the like), and most of any square or hex is visible for placing the miniature.
Plus, if you use a game that doesn’t have grids, you can use the other side and draw anything. Heck, even Savage Worlds can work without the grid, just using inches instead.
Scott, the gap between the cards has been inconsequential in my experience.
I’ve used it for one major combat and it was very effective. I didn’t notice the gaps during play.
My approach was to use an large area map to allow the PCs to engage in time appropriate to their move, then use a tighter focus map at a large scale to manage the melee. This required two Noteboards, but that was fine since I bought several in a batch to bring the price down.
I’ve used this in the past and have to agree that it’s a fantastic product. My one issue with it is the shape, I’d have much preferred a more square shape than the narrow rectangle.
Two things I think are important to know about this product:
First and foremost I would not have been aware of it without a very welcome pointer from Dunx, a fellow Stewer and gamer of exceptional perspicacity.
Second, I have (so far without success) been trying to get the manufacturer to see that were they to take two of the columns of cards and make them rows, the same materials would make a square footprint of the same size and shape as the smaller Chessex mat, something I think would increase the appeal of the Noteboard for gamers, as the oblong shape is the first thing people frown and comment on when I show them mine.
If you agree, please add your voices to mine by writing to the makers of this fine product.
I carry mine everywhere now. A folding whiteboard has uses to me far and beyond the gaming ones.
You are too kind, Roxysteve. I was just passing on a link from a colleague.
Dare I ask where the reviewer picked up a $10 copy for ? The website seems to have them at 12 euros, which is around $17-18.
Looks like a great product – I agree that a closer-to-square form factor would suit me better too. Hoping to get enough people together to get a free shipping order – if I could pick them up for $10 it would be a much easier prospect !
Nowhere special, just the Noteboard site. When I visit it, the dropdown for selecting one or more Noteboards already reads “1 at $10.00 each.” I’m in the US.
Ah ha – outside the US it directs to a .eu site, where they are 12 euros. So there must be a little shipping baked into each unit, as well as the extra shipping cost which they waive on orders of 4 or more units.
Makes sense – free shipping to Australia normally means a loss for the seller !